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Maryland General Assembly Passes School Funding Reform

by guest blogger Andrew Ujifusa

Legislation to significantly change education funding requirements for counties in Maryland has passed both the Senate and House of Delegates in that state, and now heads to the desk of Gov. Martin O'Malley for his signature.

The Senate bill would change the state's "maintenance of effort" provision that requires counties to fund schools at equal per-pupil levels from one year to the next. Several counties last year, due to fiscal problems, cut their per-pupil spending levels in order to lower their base school funding requirements for future years.

The legislation passed first in the Senate and then in the House on March 23. It would establish maintenance of effort as the legal funding "floor" for counties, and would require them to seek a waiver from the state school board if they say they cannot meet maintenance of effort. It also would permit counties to break local property-tax caps to fund education, and to take into account their history of school funding, as well as economic circumstances, when they seek a waiver.

However, if they didn't meet maintenance of effort and didn't get a waiver to do so, counties would lose tax revenues that would be diverted by the state directly to the counties' school system.

Teachers' unions and school funding advocates say the bill is a comprehensive fix to maintenance of effort law.

As with Louisiana, Maryland is featured in my story on governor-driven education legislation next week, so be on the lookout for it.

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